We have these old rickety stairs in the show house. They are good craftsmanship but have had to endure a hundred years of big Italian boys bouncing up and down them. And they are old, old and tired.

We need to keep them, though, because the space is too steep and windy to be accepted by today’s DOB code regulations. But the old stairs can be grandfathered in. It is more work to salvage them than to rip them out and put in new ones. But I like that I am forced to keep them because deep down I know that is the most sustainable thing to do.

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We’ve spent weeks strengthening the stairs from beneath and peeling the ten layers of paint off them. We used a non-toxic paint remover called Peelaway. You put the paste onto the wood and cover it with this special paper and leave it 24 hours. The stuff heats up and the paint becomes good and drips off with the help of a spatula. No dust. No lead issues.